Rockets go 0-2 in another lost week; immediate future does not look great

James Harden might not be in uniform this week. Kevin C. Cox

The Rockets struggles continued in the second week if the NBA season, as they dropped both contests in an embarrassing fashion. Houston's problems weren't limited to the box score, as reigning MVP James Harden pulled up late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's contest with hamstring tightness. The Rockets are now 1-4, last in the Southwest Division, and 13th in the Western Conference.

Game Four: Rockets vs Utah Jazz (L, 100-89)

Houston entered its Tuesday game injury riddled and without starting point guard Chris Paul, who was serving out the second half of his two-game suspension. Harden would lead the charge as the Rockets jumped out to a 29-24 lead after one, but poor defense, a lights-out effort from Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, and an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance from guard Eric Gordon resulted in the Jazz outscoring the Rockets 28-15 in the second quarter. A sluggish pace and sloppy basketball would continue through most of the second half until Harden checked in in the fourth to key a late game run. Houston would trim the Jazz lead to within five, but a tweaked hamstring sent Harden to the locker room. With the air let out of the building, the Jazz pounced and cruised to a victory. Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, while Mitchell scorched Houston’s defense for 38.

Game Five: Rockets vs Los Angeles Clippers (L, 133-113)

Friday’s contest against the Clippers looked to be the one the Rockets would be able to use to get back on track. With Chris Paul returning from suspension and Carmelo Anthony slotted into the starting rotation the Rockets started off strong defensively, but a miserable offensive effort kept the Clippers in the lead. Carmelo Anthony’s brilliant season high 24 points weren’t nearly enough to combat the Rockets’ 38% team field goal percentage, and the Clippers exploited the Houston’s thin front court to run away with the victory. Former Rocket Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers off the bench with 30 points.

Takeaways and Notes:

Eric Gordon is off to a miserable start: Through five games, Gordon is 9-39 from three and has only converted 26-80 total field goals. For a team that was missing Chris Paul and is now without Harden, the Rockets need Gordon to step up and it simply hasn’t happened. He should eventually heat back up, but this slump couldn’t come at a worse time.

Reinforcements are on their way: Forward Marquese Chriss and Zhou Qi are expected back at practice early this week. Monday’s practice will be used to determine whether or not they’re ready to be reintegrated into the rotation in time for Tuesday’s contest against Portland. Harden should be back later in the week as well, but I expect the Rockets to exercise extreme caution with the face of the franchise.

Halloween might be eventful: If a Jimmy Butler trade happens anytime soon, there’s a good chance it could happen on Wednesday. The prevailing thought process is because the Rockets would be able to add recent trade acquisitions Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss to any trade package at that point.

Looking ahead

The Rockets host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday before heading out on the road against the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls on Friday and Saturday. With the current state of the Rockets as it is and Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard leading the league with 33.8 points per game, it’s very hard to envision anything other than another blowout Tuesday. Brooklyn could be where the Rockets stop the bleeding and notch their second win, while Chicago looks like a toss up. Until the Rocket prove that the can stop their opponents from scoring in the interior, I just don’t see sunny days in the near future. I predict a 1-2 week.


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5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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